The 1890s Shift: Unveiling the Intriguing Factors that Transformed American Foreign Policy

American foreign policy changed in the 1890s due to a shift towards imperialism and a desire for global influence and power. This was driven by economic interests, the need for new markets, and the belief in the cultural superiority of the United States.

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In the late 19th century, American foreign policy underwent a significant shift sparked by various factors, resulting in a move towards imperialism and a strong desire to establish global influence and power. This transformation was driven by economic interests, the pursuit of new markets, and a belief in the cultural superiority of the United States. As historian William Appleman Williams once remarked, “empire as a way of life was a fundamental belief” during this period.

Here are some interesting facts that shed light on the reasons behind this change in American foreign policy:

  1. Economic interests: With industrialization booming in the United States, there was a growing need for raw materials and new markets. Imperial expansion allowed American businesses to access these resources and sell their surplus goods abroad. Senator Albert J. Beveridge reinforced this perspective when he stated, “American factories are making more than the American people can use; American soil is producing more than they can consume.”

  2. Desire for global influence: As other major nations like Britain and France were engaged in imperialism, there was a prevailing sentiment that the United States should also assert its dominance on the world stage. This hunger for power was exemplified by influential naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan, who emphasized the importance of a strong navy to secure global influence: “Whoever rules the waves rules the world.”

  3. Belief in cultural superiority: Many Americans held the belief in “Manifest Destiny,” the idea that the United States was destined to expand its influence and civilization across the globe. This conviction, combined with a sense of racial and cultural superiority, fueled the justification for American imperialism. Journalist Josiah Strong reflected this sentiment when he wrote, “God has made use of the nation’s golden door to Empire.”

  4. Events and circumstances triggering change: The 1898 Spanish-American War served as a catalyst for this shift in foreign policy. The conflict not only allowed the United States to expand its territorial holdings but also provided a glimpse of the benefits of imperialism. The acquisition of territories like the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico further bolstered the country’s desire for global control.

  5. Domestic support for expansion: Imperialism received considerable support on the home front. Politicians, such as Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge, actively promoted American expansionism and argued for a more assertive foreign policy. The influential yellow journalism of newspapers like the New York Journal and the New York World also played a role in shaping public opinion in favor of imperialism.

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Table: American Foreign Policy Changes in the 1890s

Reasons for Change Impact
Economic interests Access to new markets and resources
Desire for global influence Strengthening America’s position on the world stage
Belief in cultural superiority Justification for expansion and imperialism
Spanish-American War Catalyst for imperial aspirations
Domestic support Promotion of a more assertive foreign policy

In conclusion, the change in American foreign policy in the 1890s was driven by a shift towards imperialism and an ambition for global influence. Motivated by economic interests, the need for new markets, and a belief in cultural superiority, the United States embraced expansionism and territorial acquisitions. These changes were further influenced by events like the Spanish-American War and garnered support domestically. As American historian and author Walter LaFeber noted, “American imperialism was coerced by the logic of capitalist expansion.”

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The industrial revolution of the last quarter of the 19th century was the primary factor in the shifting foreign policy. As the nation became more industrialized it began to look overseas for new markets for its manufactured goods and for new sources of raw materials to feed the growing industrial system.

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In the 1890s, America experienced political tensions centered around the rise of the populist movement and a reaction against the power of big business. The government was seen as weak in regulating corporate influence, leading to concerns about corruption and the need for political reform. Journalists like Ida Tarbell exposed unfair business practices, particularly by Standard Oil. There was a push for greater government intervention and accountability to address the issues caused by big business dominance. However, while there were some positive changes at the state and local levels, meaningful reform and change were lacking at the national level due to the limited power of regulatory agencies and legal loopholes in policies like the Sherman Antitrust Act.

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